Earlier today I was watching yet another repeat of the timeless 1973 classic match between the Barbarians and New Zealand. It seemed so refreshing to see a game where scrums existed to help restart the game after a breakdown in play.
I reckon that on most occasions it took about 40 seconds from the referee blowing his whistle to award a scrum to the ball coming out the back of the scrum.
Fast forward an hour or so and it’s not half-time in today’s 5th round of the Heineken Cup. I started by watching Toulon v Cardiff. In the first 16 minutes there were 5 or so scrums, 4 resulted in penalties and not one was completed in less than 90 seconds from the time the referee blew the whistle. Some took 90 seconds before the ball went in!That match finished the half early so I switched to view Harlequins v Connaght only to arrive in time to see a scrum that saw a crooked feed, resulting in a scrum to Quins. Whilst the commentators expected another crooked feed, the scrum collapsed and a penalty was awarded instead.
The Scrum has lost its original purpose: the game is being ruined by the laws and the administrators really must sort out this mess. We are wasting valuable playing time and crowds as well as players are getting frustrated.
It is fixable: if I had my way I’d like to see a speedier approach that also followed the laws of the game. Something along the lines of: Arrive, touch, engage, “Scrum” to be ordered by the referee at which point the scrum half puts the ball in and the packs can drive. Any attempt to smash into a scrum, which is in effect pushing before the ball comes in, is illegal and should be immediately rewarded by a penalty.
Pretty soon this change will remove some of the nonsense we currently see and get the ball in play a lot more. That must be the goal.